“Training often fails because people expect way too much of the animal and too little of themselves”
In recent years the demand for professional pet trainers has been on the rise as more people recognise the importance of training their furry companions. If you have a passion for working with animals and dream of being self-employed, becoming a pet trainer could be the perfect career path for you. When I have browsed social media I have regularly seen a video of an aggressive dog being trained & tamed by a trainer; and I have also had the pleasure of walking through the Pet Kingdom (no longer running) in Harrods, and seeing well trained dogs striking cute poses for shoppers. Now I've always seen the high level of training required when viewing equestrian during the Olympics or a dog agility competition on TV, and you soon begin to notice the different types of training for animals.
It's worth noting that some trainers may specialise in multiple areas or have expertise in specific breeds or species of pets. Additionally, there are trainers who work with other pets, such as cats, birds, or even exotic animals, applying similar training principles to modify behaviour and teach commands. Now I get that watching an aggressive pet being trained on TV to control their anger may draw in audiences, but if you were looking into a career with training animals it's important to understand the types of training you may be interested in. I have listed them below
Obedience Trainer: Obedience trainers focus on teaching basic commands and behaviours to dogs, such as sit, stay, come, and leash manners. They help dogs develop good manners and respond to commands reliably.
Behaviourist: Behaviourists are trainers who specialize in understanding and modifying pet behaviour problems. They work with pets that exhibit issues like aggression, fear, separation anxiety, or destructive behaviour. Behaviourists assess the underlying causes of these problems and develop behaviour modification plans to address them.
Puppy Trainer: Puppy trainers specialize in working with young puppies. They help with socialization, housebreaking, and basic training for puppies, laying the foundation for good behaviour as they grow.
Service Dog Trainer: Service dog trainers train and prepare dogs to assist individuals with disabilities. They teach specialised skills based on the specific needs of the person the service dog will be assisting.
Trick Trainer: Trick trainers focus on teaching pets a variety of fun and entertaining tricks. They work on commands like shake hands, roll over, play dead, or fetch specific objects.
Agility Trainer: Agility trainers work with dogs to develop their agility, speed, and coordination through obstacle courses. They train dogs to navigate jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and other agility equipment.
Search and Rescue Trainer: Search and rescue trainers work with dogs trained to locate missing persons, survivors of disasters, or specific scents. They teach dogs specialised skills for tracking, trailing, or scent detection.
Clicker Trainer: Clicker trainers use positive reinforcement techniques, often utilising a clicker device, to train pets. They associate the sound of the clicker with a reward, helping pets understand and learn desired behaviours.
It's worth noting that some trainers may specialize in multiple areas or have expertise in specific breeds or species of pets. Additionally, there are trainers who work with other pets, such as cats, birds, or even exotic animals, applying similar training principles to modify behaviour and teach commands.
Now communicating with an animal as you know isn't easy so you may be wondering what sort of experience or qualifications would you need to actually get started. Becoming a successful pet trainer requires a combination of education, practical experience, and a genuine love for animals. While there are no strict legal requirements to become a pet trainer, acquiring the following qualifications will enhance your credibility and increase your chances of success:
Consider enrolling in courses or programs related to animal behaviour, obedience training, and positive reinforcement methods. Many reputable organisations offer certifications in pet training, such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or the Karen Pryor Academy (click the image below to have a browse).
But what's better than gaining on the job hands-on experience? You can gain hands-on experience by volunteering at animal shelters, assisting established trainers, or even offering to train friends' and family members' pets. This experience will help you refine your skills and build your portfolio. For example Getmyfirstjob offers a range of apprenticeships and information on career paths to get into animal training, such as skills required, volunteering opportunities, the various levels of animal care, training and knowledge.
You will need to stay updated on the latest training techniques, industry trends, and animal behaviour research by attending workshops, seminars, and conferences. This ongoing education will ensure your skills remain current and relevant as you learn information from experts and scientist across the world. The Modern Dog Trainer, lists many expos, seminars and conferences regarding animal training so feel free to click the link and check them out.
If you click the below images it will take you to a few online animal training courses below, which will show examples of canine, puppy and feline courses.
As a self-employed pet trainer, investing in the right equipment is crucial to deliver effective training sessions. Here are some essential tools you should consider acquiring:
a. Treats and Rewards: Positive reinforcement is a key aspect of pet training. Stock up on high-value treats and rewards to motivate and reward pets for desired behaviours. You will need treats that are small in size so your dog can eat them quickly before moving on to the next training task. I read that the treats need to be moist or semi-moist, as crunchy treats take longer for your dog to consume and are generally less enticing.
b. Leashes, Collars, and Harnesses: Different training methods may require various types of equipment. Have a variety of leashes, collars, and harnesses to suit different sizes and breeds of pets. They can also have your pets ID tag in case they ever get lost.
c. Clicker: A clicker is a handy tool for marking desired behaviours and signalling to the pet that a reward is coming. It helps establish clear communication during training sessions. Clicker training is a great positive reinforcement training tool because it enables you to be very precise with what behaviour you are rewarding.
d. Training Aids: Training aids such as target sticks, agility equipment, puzzle toys, and clicker targets can assist in teaching advanced commands and mental stimulation exercises.
I have included a few products from Amazon below which should help you get started, Thek9ofmine also provides a detailed break down of the equipment needed to successfully train a pet.
Now you have done your certifications, studies, attended seminars, bought the required equipment and gained relevant experience. As you rise up the ranks you are probably looking at expanding your career opportunities so here's a few:
Private Training: Offer one-on-one training sessions with pet owners in their homes or at training facilities. This allows you to tailor the training program to the specific needs of each pet and their owner.
Group Classes: Conduct group training classes in local community centres, pet stores, or parks. Group sessions offer socialisation opportunities for pets and allow you to train multiple pets simultaneously.
Specialised Training: Focus on specific areas of pet training, such as obedience, agility, therapy, service dog training, or behaviour modification for specific breeds or issues.
Online Training: Utilise technology to offer virtual training sessions and reach a wider audience. Online platforms, webinars, and video tutorials can expand your client base and increase your earning potential.
Now we understand creating a bond and seeing results with animals can be hugely rewarding but it is important to provide a balanced article here, so we need to discuss some of the negative side of being a pet trainer.
1. Dealing with difficult Clients: One of the significant struggles pet trainers face is dealing with challenging clients. Some pet owners may have unrealistic expectations, be resistant to training methods, or lack consistency in implementing training techniques. To overcome this challenge:
Practice effective communication and active listening skills to understand clients' concerns and goals.
Educate clients about the training process and manage their expectations from the beginning.
Offer ongoing support and encouragement to build trust and rapport with clients.
2. Managing Aggressive or Fearful Animals: Working with aggressive or fearful animals can be physically and emotionally demanding. Such pets may pose safety risks or require specialised behaviour modification techniques. To tackle this challenge:
Prioritise safety by implementing appropriate handling and restraint techniques.
Develop a thorough understanding of animal behaviour and body language to identify early warning signs.
Seek additional training and collaborate with veterinary behaviourists or experienced trainers to address severe cases.
3. Maintaining Continued Professional Development: The field of pet training is constantly evolving, with new techniques, research, and advancements emerging regularly. Staying updated and maintaining professional development can be a challenge. Overcome this struggle by:
Attending workshops, seminars, and conferences to expand knowledge and learn about the latest training methods.
Engage in online communities or forums to share experiences, seek advice, and stay connected with fellow trainers.
Read industry-specific books, journals, and articles to enhance skills and stay informed about developments in pet training.
4. Balancing Emotional Investment: Working closely with pets and their owners often involves emotionally invested relationships. Witnessing the challenges, setbacks, or even loss can take a toll on a trainer's emotional well-being. To maintain a healthy balance:
Practice self-care and set boundaries to prevent burnout.
Seek support from colleagues, mentors, or professional networks to share experiences and gain perspective.
Develop coping mechanisms, such as engaging in hobbies or activities that provide stress relief and relaxation.
Social media platform has made pet training more accessible so its important you develop your brand to stand out from the crowd.
Identify what sets you apart from other pet trainers. Consider your training approach, specialisation, or unique experiences. This becomes your USP, the core message that differentiates you from competitors. Examples could include offering positive reinforcement training methods, specializing in specific breeds or behavioural issues, or emphasizing a holistic approach to training.
Build a Professional Website: Create a well-designed website that showcases your expertise, services, and success stories. Ensure it is mobile-friendly, user-friendly, and optimized for search engines. Include an attractive homepage, informative content, testimonials, and a clear call-to-action for potential clients to contact you.
Utilise Social Media Platforms: Harness the power of social media to connect with a broader audience. Create profiles on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and regularly post engaging content related to pet training. Share training tips, success stories, client testimonials, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of your work. Engage with your audience by responding to comments and questions promptly.
Leverage Online Directories and Review Platforms: List your business on popular online directories, such as Google My Business, Yelp, and pet-specific directories. Encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews and testimonials on these platforms, as they can significantly influence potential clients' decision-making process.
Develop Compelling Content: Create informative and valuable content that showcases your expertise and builds trust with your audience. Start a blog on your website and write articles on pet training tips, common behaviour issues, or training success stories. Additionally, consider creating video tutorials, infographics, or hosting webinars to engage and educate pet owners.
Collaborate with Complementary Businesses: Establish partnerships with local veterinary clinics, pet stores, groomers, or pet-friendly establishments. Offer to provide training workshops or contribute articles to their newsletters or blogs. Cross-promoting with these businesses can help expand your reach and attract new clients.
Network and Attend Pet-Related Events: Participate in pet-related events, such as adoption drives, community fairs, or dog shows. Network with pet owners, fellow trainers, and industry professionals. Consider offering mini-training sessions or demonstrations to showcase your skills and create memorable experiences.
Offer Specialised Services or Packages: Differentiate yourself by offering specialised training services or packages tailored to specific needs. For example, you could provide puppy training programs, therapy dog training, or even specialised training for specific breeds or behaviour issues. Highlight these offerings on your website and promotional materials.
Provide Exceptional Customer Service: Deliver outstanding customer service to your clients. Be responsive, attentive, and empathetic to their needs. Ensure clear communication throughout the training process, and provide ongoing support and guidance even after the training sessions have ended.
If you have been reading my blogs for long enough, you know I love a book recommendation. here are some recommended books for Aspiring Pet Trainers: To further enhance your knowledge and skills, consider reading these highly recommended books:
Don't Shoot the Dog!" by Karen Pryor
This book explores the power of positive reinforcement and its applications in training animals. It provides practical techniques and real-life examples to help trainers understand and implement effective training methods.
Power of Positive Dog Training" by Pat Miller
Pat Miller shares positive reinforcement techniques specifically tailored for training dogs. The book covers basic obedience training, problem-solving, and behaviour modification, offering valuable insights for both new and experienced trainers.
On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals" by Turid Rugaas
Turid Rugaas focuses on understanding canine body language and communication signals. This book helps trainers develop a deeper understanding of dogs' behaviours and emotions, enabling them to communicate effectively and build strong relationships with their furry clients.
While the journey of a pet trainer may present its fair share of challenges, with the right strategies and a passion for the profession, these hurdles can be overcome. By addressing difficult clients, managing challenging animals, focusing on professional development, maintaining emotional well-being, and effectively managing the business side of things, pet trainers can navigate these struggles and continue to make a positive impact in the lives of pets and their owners. I hope this blog post helped aspiring animal trainers, if this is something of interest to you please keep me updated with your progress I would be interested to hear your journeys.